Friday, April 26, 2013
For years, the Coeur d’Alene School District had come under attack for its International Baccalaureate program, a world-renowned curriculum intended to teach critical thinking and global knowledge. Critics saw it as a waste of money at minimum, and a UnitedNations-driven socialist reeducation conspiracy at worst.
But when a new crop of board members took over, they ditched both the IB program and the Primary Years Programme. But the programs had ardent supporters, and the school board faced backlash.
Last night, at the Mica Flats Grange Hall, three sets of school board candidates talked about everything from bus contracting to what they think about the phrase “progressive education.” (Most didn’t like it.)
Inevitably, they got asked about PYP and IB. Here were their answers:
I’d have to say with the International Baccalaureate, boy, that is ahot-button controversy. Here’s my stance on International Baccalaureate — and Iam focusing strictly on the international Baccalaureate program at Lake CityHigh school. I look at that issue separately from PYP.
I have concerns that I would have asked questions about at the board level.It’s my understanding that, initially, the committee that recommended[Advanced Placement] or IB — they didn’t choose IB. And I know what it’s like toserve on a committee, and know whether or not thoserecommendations are followed at a district level. I know what that feels like.So that’s one question I would have followed on.
The second thing I would have looked at is the actual true costs. I wouldhave liked to have known, in addition to the students that actually graduated, Iwanted to see the number of students that weren’t enrolled in IB, but took thoseclasses because AP wasn’t giving them what they wanted. I would have wanted toknow those facts. Knowing that, I do have concerns about the costs ofInternational Baccalaureate. It would have required a conversation of thebenefits versus the costs, and then compare it to the big scheme.
I wish I could give you a concrete answer on IB, but I just can’t, becausethat data wasn’t provided in a school district format. When it was reviewed, Ifelt like the data was framed in a subjective viewpoint. For me, the issue hadnothing to do with the United Nations or UNESCO. It had everything to do withdollars and sense. And to me it just needed to be objective data. I wish we hadseen that.
The entire IB/PYP discussion and vote occurred before my time on the board.But I did research the topic, and I did come up to testify at the PYP hearing.The information I’ve seen on IB, it was expensive. It wasn’t terribly effective.It was divisive, because there was a lot of conflict over it. And also it wasexclusionary. If you had a facility that was PYP, it could only be PYP. Itcouldn’t have anything else.
But, beyond that, it’s the desire to have the IB, PYP, is the desire forother options in the school system. There is a need to address those kinds ofprograms and to have that available in various school facilities. And so, whatthe board is undertaking is looking at ways to evaluate and adopt thoseprograms, so we that we have options for that parents that are out there.
When I spoke at the opening of the Rathdrum Stem Academy, I looked out and Isaw 250, 265 bright faced students, happy as could be. Another 250 on a waitinglist. Now, these are students and parents — over 500 hundred of them — who hadsigned up for this new school that had never opened its doors.
Well, I think as a district, how bad does your product have to be, to haveover 500 people want to move, want to change, without ever seeing what it isthey’re getting into? So the need to have these programs is there. And I thinkthe board recognizes that — I certainly recognize it. And I want to put intoplace a system where we can evaluate the programs, avoid the pitfalls of PYPand IB. And then we can have these programs available.
We’ve already started. We looked at one called core knowledge. We had awonderful presentation on that, we’re farming that out to see if there is anyinterest in the district. If there is, we’ll certainly bring it back in. Butthere is a need out there. We are looking into it. And we’re looking forsolutions. Thank you.
Well, as a matter of fact, I’m a product of IB. I was in an IB school, I tookIB for four years, in St. Paul, Minnesota. I could tell you stories that wouldcurl your toes. Well, I might as well.
The first book in our 9th grade pre-IB literature class was calledGiovanni’s Room. It amounted to gay erotica. I was 14. I had to read it.You know, IB, from the inside it looks more like a marketing gimmick, for peoplewho like to consider themselves sophisticated. But in reality, I saw the bestminds of my class become unemployed history or humanities majors. It reallydidn’t do us any favors. Thank you.
I’d like to speak to how this PYP program was handled, and mishandled in myjudgment. I’m not here saying that we need to have IB and PYP back in theschools.
But I am saying pretty clearly that teachers and the parents particularlywere left out of the discussion here. If you look back at what happened here — first of all there was not a survey or a vote done on what the parents wanted atHayden Meadows school. There were some promises that was going to take place,that never took place. The teachers were also not given a voice in this. It wasa decision by certain people on the board to get rid of this program forwhatever reason — political reasons, ideological reasons, whatever. They ran foroffice last time, to get rid of this program, and they got on the board, theygot a majority, and they got rid of the program.
The thing that concerned me was how this was handled. There was a publichearing and at the public hearing — it really wasn’t a true public hearing.People were allowed to go up and vent their feelings, and then the board membersread prepared statements and killed the program.
I’ve been on boards. I’ve conducted public hearings. That’s not how you do apublic hearing. Public hearings, you absorb information from the people, andthen you take it under advisement. You think about it, then you come back withsome kind of decision.
You don’t just listen to everybody, let them express their emotions or theirthoughts and then kill the program. I thought the whole thing was seriouslymishandled, I spoke against how it was handled. I’m not here to say that we needto get the IB and PYP program back.
I am saying parents deserve a voice, they deserve a vote. If I was on theboard that's one of the actions I would ask, is that the parents of HaydenMeadows school be given a chance to express their opinion.
One of the things I’ve heard is that the parents there, the teachers there,some of them are pretty tired of this whole thing, they’d like to move on.That’s their decision. But I still think they deserve a vote, they deserve avoice. And I will not be part of establishing or eliminating any program in theCoeur d’Alene School District, without full input of the parents and teachers.
We have two issues. One is IB, one is PYP. I did a lot of research on IB.First of all, there was declining enrollment in IB. It was getting harder tojustify it. Second, I love facts, I love statistics. I ran them, I wish Ibrought them. The reality was the students coming out of the [IB] program werenot getting the college credit that the [AP] students were getting.
When the IB was advertised to the public, it was advertised as a program thatwould give students that would a great deal of college credit, and it wasn’tmaterializing. Coupled with that, [it was] expensive.
Now let’s move onto PYP, not to mix the two. I did a tremendous amount ofresearch on PYP.
I read every manual I could find. In fact, I read manuals the parents didn’tknow about, that the administration didn’t know about. Something called theparent’s manual to PYP.
I went personally to the school a number of times. I met privately withparents. I met with parents in groups. I met with the administrators. I reallystudied the issue. Thoroughly.
What really swayed me was the conversation I had with Ms. [SuperintendentHazel] Bauman, when I asked her, why can’t we just set out a parallel program,for the parents who don’t want to have the philosophy and the socio-teachings ofthe PYP program, they could just go on a different strand, through a differentset of classes?
And the answer was that PYP would not allow it.
The program was based with Geneva. To be a PYP school —and I’ve read aboutthis thoroughly, from the original PYP materials — that every person in theschool — that would be staff, teachers, custodians, students, parents — thatevery person had to believe in and teach and support the PYP program. I had tomake a decision as a board member. And to me that was giving away sovereignty.
Think about it: We were being told we couldn’t do with our school propertywhat we wanted to do with our school property. In other words, to simply set upsome parallel classrooms was not allowed.
So after all of my study, and all of my talk, and all of my angst-ing aboutit, I decided I really needed to be a responsible board member and to say, no,we need the sovereignty of our schools. And so that was what pushed me over todecide that it needed to go. I’m glad to see that Hayden Meadows is movingforward. They’re a wonderful school, they have a dedicated staff. I’m surewhatever they do they’re going to succeed. They have a very supportive parentbody. Thank you very much.
I think most everybody’s got their own opinion on PYP and how it was handled,and IB and what the issues were there. But I also think it’s time to moveforward. It’s my understanding that come July 1 of this year, because the boardhas killed both of those programs, the materials have to be shredded, and therecan be no further discussion of PYP or IB in either of those schools.
From this point on, all we can do is to learn from the lessons from what hashappened and move forward. We have so many challenges ahead of us for our kidsin this district. The world is getting smaller and the future is going to beincredibly competitive. We need to give all of our kids, from the least capableto the most capable, the best education we can afford. I think that’s reallywhere we need to go now. I do agree, I have talked to people at Hayden Meadows,I think they have moved on. But I would also agree with Tom, that if the parentsof Hayden Meadows wanted to pursue PYP, I would be open to letting them do that.
But the new Common Core — and this is an issue I know — the new Common Core isvery similar to PYP. It’s just that it is homegrown. I say that we move forward,and move our kids forward as well.